Magazine article Marketing

Science Joins Art in Brand Naming

Magazine article Marketing

Science Joins Art in Brand Naming

Article excerpt

Whether overt, abstract or evocative, finding a name that really stands out is one of the major factors behind the successful launch of a brand.

New product development is a costly, lengthy and, above all, risky business. Only one in six new products succeed, according to research by Information Resources, which followed the fortunes of 2250 launches between 1997 and 1998. Key success factors include widespread distribution, early promotion and choosing the right name.

Many of the successful launches of the past few years have names which are distinct in their markets - Egg in financial services, for example, and Orange in telecoms. "There is a definite trend toward more innovative, stand-out names," says Nicola Fawssett, director of strategic marketing company New Solutions." Egg, Gold fish and so on are all simple, natural and consumer-friendly words. And if the name conjures up a visual image, rather than being an empty vessel, it can cost less to market because it already suggests a creative approach."

Brand Genetics is a two-year-old new product development agency whose clients include General Motors, Unilever, UDV, American Express and United Biscuits. "Originality is the most important thing," says director Andrew Christophers. "Successful names are those that have the confidence to break new ground, such as Phileas Fogg. Consumers get 3000 commercial messages a day, so if your name is breaking new ground you have a fighting chance of cutting through those messages.

"There has to be an element of discomfort in the naming process. You have to remind clients that nine out of ten new products fail because they are not different enough. Fortune does favour the brave."

Linguistic filters

The naming process is a curious mix of intense creativity and scientific methodology, and every agency has its own approach. For Brand Genetics, it is all about establishing what Christophers calls "the brand DNA", "We have three rules for naming. The name has to be based in the product truth, it has to be unique and it has to be highly contagious. The name is the brand anchor."

At Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, the naming process has been part of its business for 25 years. "We have name-development experts and panels of creative consumers who enjoy throwing ideas around," says director Susannah Hart. "We use computer technology and software for additional names, and there are hundreds of linguistic filters to see if words are unpronounceable or have meanings in other markets. Then we use legal and trademark filters. In the course of a project we may present 50 names selected from hundreds."

It can be difficult persuading clients to go for a different name, says Hart, and an initial presentation is used to gauge which names are preferred and which are hated. "It can take a company a long time to choose a name and it can be dispiriting."

Adds fellow director, Simon Luke: "You have to work quite hard to keep positive and believe there's something out there. The hardest client is the client who knows what they want, but can't explain it. That's when you have got to turn it into a science as quickly as possible. So you have to define the brief and get plenty of feedback at the initial presentation."

Interbrand Newell and Sorrell worked on the Movano launch with Vauxhall. "The brief was for a European name, so right from the start we were thinking in all languages," says Luke. With offices across Europe, the company was able to work internationally from the start.

"We wanted to come up with something that positioned the product as a utility vehicle. It was important for us to keep our feet on the ground - it wasn't going to be a Cappuccino or a Cinquecento," says Luke. Ideas to reflect what it was included lifting, carrying and movement.

Ultimately, Movano - which conveys both the word van and the sense of movement - also managed to fit the corporate theme, which includes Bravo and Combo. …

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